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Religion

God, the Divine Feminine and the Maid of Heaven

Christopher Buck | Jul 11, 2014

PART 2 IN SERIES God and Gender

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Christopher Buck | Jul 11, 2014

PART 2 IN SERIES God and Gender

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

In the previous article, I quoted this beautiful, poetic passage from the Baha’i writings, in which the symbolic “Maid of Heaven” exclaims:

“O People of the earth! By the righteousness of the One true God, I am the Maid of Heaven begotten by the Spirit of Bahá, abiding within the Mansion hewn out of a mass of ruby, tender and vibrant; and in this mighty Paradise naught have I ever witnessed save that which proclaimeth the Remembrance of God by extolling the virtues of this Arabian Youth. Verily there is none other God but your Lord, the All-Merciful.”

Here, the Maid of Heaven announces to the people of the world the advent of the Bab. But this mystical, divine feminine voice also foreshadows the coming of Baha’u’llah, whose imminent advent the Bab’s mission foretold.

Dr. Nader Saiedi (Taslimi Professor of Baha’i Studies, UCLA) explains this profound, mysterious passage:

divine feminineThe Arabic verb referring to “the Maid of Heaven begotten by the Spirit of Bahá” is waladatnī, namely, “She gave birth.” In Arabic, verbs are different for female and male. “Walad” means: “He begot.” “Waladat” means: “She begot.”

So there is no doubt that, in this statement, “Bahá” is defined as the mother. The literal translation is that “Bahá” is the female who gave birth to the Maid of Heaven. So it is not deduction. It is the literal word.

In other words, Baha’u’llah metaphorically gives birth to the Maid of Heaven, infusing the Baha’i teachings—which emphasize the equality of women and men—with an interwoven fabric of masculine and feminine elements. We can understand this symbol of the Maid of Heaven as a traditionally feminine or maternal metaphor which personifies Baha’u’llah’s truth and spiritual reality.

Baha’is believe, you’ll remember, that God transcends gender, as Professor Saiedi further notes:

Relating to the issue of “He” and “She,” in Baha’i theology, God is beyond any gender. Therefore, “He” or “She” or even “It” make no difference.

Now back to the common invocation in Baha’i scriptures and prayers, “He is God!” Doesn’t that indicate a masculine vision of the Creator? Professor Saiedi comments:

The Qur’an uses “He,” and thus it would be considered as against Islam to use “She.” But Baha’u’llah used the form in order to transform the meaning.

Yet since the Baha’i Faith came within the Islamic world, and since the Qur’an always refers to God as “He,” changing that to “She” would have been perceived by Muslims as a direct attack on God and Islam.

Therefore Baha’u’llah used that same word, but undermined the patriarchal meaning.

So, “He is God” primarily refers to Baha’u’llah. “She is God” could well refer to Baha’u’llah’s spiritual reality, metaphorically personified as the Maid of Heaven. In both expressions, and in their corresponding, gendered metaphors, masculine and feminine principles complement one another, in perfect balance.

For centuries, people have referred to God as a masculine force. In the Baha’i writings, you can discover the meaning, beauty and profundity of this remarkable Baha’i scripture—“I am the Maid of Heaven begotten by the Spirit of Bahá, abiding within the Mansion hewn out of a mass of ruby, tender and vibrant”—and begin to understand God as equally feminine.

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Comments

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  • Christopher Buck
    Oct 23, 2019
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    The previous article explains: "So “He is God!” refers to the “Light” of God, as shining in the “Lamp” of the Messengers and Prophets of God, in this case Baha’u’llah. Christians already understand this concept, as seen in the following biblical verse: “He that hath seen me [Jesus] hath seen the Father.” – John 14:9. In other words, Baha’u’llah is “God” in nature, but not in essence. Baha’is believe that the Manifestations and Prophets of God reflect His glory to humanity. Since we can’t see or even imagine God, the next best thing is to see the light of God as it radiates ...from the perfect lamp, whether that source of spiritual illumination shines from Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, the Peacemaker, the Bab, or Baha’u’llah."
    Read more...
  • Christopher Buck
    Oct 23, 2019
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    Andrew Wiebe: From “Paradise & Paradigm,” p. 218: “O Czar of Russia! Incline thine ear unto the voice of God, the King, the Holy, and turn thou unto Paradise, the Spot wherein abideth He Who, among the Concourse on high, beareth the most excellent titles, and Who, in the kingdom of creation, is called by the name of God, the Effulgent, the All-Glorious. …” (ESW 57).” “Analysis: … The prophet (called the “Manifestation of God” in Bahā’ī theophanology) is an extension and effulgence of the divine glory. Bahā’u’llāh … is nominally and functionally “God” for all revelatory intents and purposes. … ...The Manifestation of God is said to be God in nature, not in essence. This distinction contextualizes Bahā’u’llāh’s proclamation to the Czar.”
    Read more...
  • John Hatcher
    May 11, 2018
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    The last passage is from the Báb, not Baha'u'llah. This is important to note, as is the fact that both refer to themselves as "this Arabian youth." Good topic, Christopher, and valuable exegesis.
  • Eric Christian Hansen
    Mar 1, 2018
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    I think that anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ as the incarnation of the Son of God made manifest in human flesh, could still believe that Joan of Arc was an incarnation of the Holy Spirit made manifest in human flesh. For one thing, there is an abundance of historical archives about her coming, her life, and her death. That may be one reason why God sent her, so that unbelieving folks can have a recent example of a life similar to Jesus' in many respects, but not as extraordinary as Jesus'. Still very ...amazing. There may be a shared GLORY in heaven between Jesus and Joan (i.e. Mary Magdalene returned). POPE Saint PIUS X, stated that Joan was destined to be the GLORY of the UNIVERSAL(i.e. Catholic) CHURCH. JESUS-MARIA. Amen.
    Read more...
  • Jul 17, 2014
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    This is such an important topic. Thank-you for presenting it and helping to grow a dialogue about assumptions and sometimes complacency regarding the "assumed" gender of God.
  • Jul 12, 2014
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    This is really great! I've known so many women who, upon hearing that only men are elected to the Universal House Of Justice, have really flipped out!! Now I have an "arsenal" with which to show them the basically feminine spirit of our Beloved Faith. Thank you, Christopher Buck!!
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